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Senior Correspondent

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to a satisfying retirement can be the adjustment that must occur when one partner is now home all day. Routines and responsibilities that have been handled a certain way are suddenly upended. This is especially true if the other person has already stopped working, or has been a stay-at-home spouse. In my case, since I traveled a lot with my job, my wife had a solid grasp of what needed to be done and how and by whom. When I stopped working there was this extra body wanting to change how and when tasks were performed. Ten years later we have a system that works well, but it didn’t come without a few detours down the unhappy highway.

Chores & Responsibilities

Handling some household chores may be a sticking point for the partner who has stopped working. I assume the thinking is: “I have worked hard all my life. Now, it is my time to relax.” That attitude is not going to fly. The person you are telling this to has been working hard his or her entire life as well. You get to stop, and they don’t? A much better approach is to realize helping around the house will make your life a whole lot more pleasant.

Quite simply, it is the fair thing to do. You live there. You make a mess. You have some basic skills that allow you to vacuum or do the laundry or dust. Why wouldn’t you assume you are partly responsible for the maintenance of your home? Trust me, your own self-interests will benefit greatly from playing fair in the chore game.

Benefits of Sharing Chores

Helping your partner gives you a much deeper appreciation for what he or she did all those years you got to drive away every morning and left the other to handle everything. Empathy is a mark of a mature person. It is also smart. Even if you live a minimalist lifestyle with little clutter, no household runs on its own. Who do you think keeps the refrigerator full? How come your clothes drawer has socks that match? Notice all the unsung work that has been done for years on your behalf.

Helping with the chores frees up more of your spouse’s time so the two of you can go have fun together. One of the major benefits of not working is you have time to strengthen the relationships that mean the most to you. That takes effort and spending extra time doing things you both enjoy. By sharing chores, you help create opportunities for these special moments together.

What We Do

My wife and I have a simple system that works well. We make a list of the basic household chores and I do them all. No, not true. We split the list in half. Then, every two weeks we switch lists. I am not a big fan of dusting, but I only have to do it once a month so no biggie. By rotating chores the sense of being in this together is enhanced. One partner doesn’t get stuck doing the same things over and over.

By the way, I have done my own laundry almost my entire married life. I am not sure how we arrived at this arrangement, but I’m so used to it now I assume it is how all married or committed couples operate. In talking with friends, I gather that is not true. But, it works for us.

How about your system, or lack of one? How do you split chores with your spouse or significant other? Have you recently had to adjust for a newly retired person in your midst? Are you ready to scream…yet?

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